There are certain cities that have been written about to an exhausting degree. For a while, I wracked my brain thinking of how to spin a unique angle on these places that I’ve visited, along with most of the world. I decided to use sex as a metaphor.
In “The Virgin Diaries” series, you will read about my “first time” with each of these most popular cities. I’ve structured these stories like a real first time encounter. After all, who doesn’t love reading about some innocent gal’s “first time?!” Buckle up and enjoy!
The Foreplay (Beginning of the Trip:)
I could not fucking wait to jump in a little British cab and hear, “OY YEAH LAY-DEE, WHIH YA GOIN TODAY LOVE, INNIT BRUVUH? INNIT? OY YEAH LOVE, WHEH WE GOIN THEN? BLOODY HELL ME KNICKERS IN A TWIST.” The second half of that dream didn’t come true, but the first part did. Hopping in the iconic cabs of London was a treat. However, different than I expected.
New York City cab drivers are a class act. I mean it. The amount of times I’ve been shown kindness by these poor drivers is really astounding. I remember one driver literally didn’t even flinch as I put my head through his window from the back seat and asked him if he was married with vodka droplets from my breath practically in his ear.
I would never expect anyone to want to put up with that level of shit show. All I’m saying is, NYC drivers have the patience of a saint. They seem to really like engaging in chat, learning more about me, and telling me about them. London? Not. Fucking. At. All. A few times I tried to ask for suggestions or start a small conversation, and a few times I was literally ignored. Only one time did a driver show me kindness because I was able to identify his ringtone as the theme from Peaky Blinders. He was surprised I knew the show. (I’m obsessed with the fookin’ Shelbies.)
Possibly the best way to kick start my week long trip to London! I’m a huge foodie, I’m sure you can tell by looking at me. The market has no shortage of artisan and locally sourced food, and such a variety at that. It was nice to have one of my good friends, Abe with us, as he knew where to go for the best treats. Otherwise, the experience is definitely dizzying. I learned that the next time I come to visit, I definitely need to devote more time to carousing around the market at a leisurely pace. I was surprised that visiting here could definitely be a half day activity! Some English cheese and fruity prosecco from the market made for awesome “Welcome to London” treats.
I’m (not sure) I’m proud to say that I did not return home until 6 in the morning on my first night in London! I guess I didn’t realize how early the pubs and bars shut down. I was surprised to see the lights turn on at 2AM at our last stop of the night.
We found refuge in a casino. Super random. I couldn’t even tell you how we found this place, but find it we did. From 3AM to 5AM, from what I remember we had a good time. Nina was able to turn 30 dollars into 300 in a matter of 15 minutes! I have to remember to bring her to Vegas with me!
Nina and I found out that the casino keeps these lobsters in a cage crowded together. We spoke with one of the supervisors about how sad we felt about this. We were also really hammered. I’m sure he appreciated the feedback.
At the end of the night, we got McDonald’s breakfast and watched the sunrise before walking back to our hotel. More thoughts on nightlife at the end of this!
The Works. (Rising Action of the Trip):
The Ghost Bus Tour
This was the stupidest fucking tour I have ever done. I really mean that, and don’t forget I marched for three hours in India and got bit by a leech in the process. Nina and I wanted to like this, we really did, but it fell short so badly. It was so bad that we couldn’t stop laughing. You start by boarding a tour bus decked out in funeral home chic. The guide tells you it is a retired hearse, which is already a lie because like I said..it’s a bus. You are able to go on the top or bottom level.
As the bus drives around, you are able to see other parts of the bus on a black and white television. The bus makes several stops at spots that I’m sure aren’t actually haunted and completely made up. At one stop, we picked up a “ghost” who meandered around the bus freeloading. The guide’s voice had one of those corny “spOoOoOoOky” sounds to it. Trust me when I say, it was a disaster.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
This classic came at the recommendation of both a dear friend, and Charles Dickens. Dickens and a few other famed British authors used to drink at this historic spot. This pub was awesome to me because it’s living history! We ventured into the dark and dingy cellar to have our beers, and were immediately transported back in time. For an hour or more, I sat with the ghosts of Londoners from many years past. If you know my blog, you know I geek out at these type of experiences. It was a true treat.
Duck and Waffle
More like Douche and Waffle. We rolled up to the bouncer (this is a restaurant mind you) on a weekday night. He hemmed and hawed and wondered aloud if he should let us in because Nina (my cousin) was wearing *gasp* flip flops! He finally gave us the HONOR of being let inside. We had some rose at the bar before being led up to our table where…wait for it. THE DINING ROOM WAS FUCKING EMPTY.
So, what was the big deal about fucking flip flops then? The most egregious display of pretentiousness I’ve ever seen. We were so disgusted by the snobbery that we barely wanted to eat from the stupid menu, but we did. I got, what else? The duck and waffle. It was OK, nothing to write home about. It’s a shame because I like the concept of this place as I’m a huge fan of duck. But this place is FOR THE BIRDS.
Strolling the Banks of the Thames
One of my fondest memories will always be the four of us strolling along the river Thames. The sun shining, a Pimm’s cup in hand, and looking out into the horizon is all the healing I need. I loved considering all of the people in history who had seen the Thames. Everyone from the commoners to the aristocracy. I imagined what they must have been thinking about years ago as they shared the same view I did. We strolled the Thames regularly and there was always something new to see. There was never any shortness of entertainment.
For a few days, a free theater production was playing near the banks.
Another day, there were the most AMAZING sandcastles being built on the sand.
One of the more wholesome scenes was all of the children delighted by giant bubbles.
Afternoon Pick Me Ups
Nearly every afternoon into the evening, we would relax at the Wonderground. It’s a carnival themed outdoors area and it feels as though you’ve stepped into the circus, or Alice in Wonderland. Just In Bean serves the best iced coffee with Bailey’s added even the ice cubes are made of coffee! It was fun to wander around the area and see what circus themed live shows were going to be playing. It’s a fun fare atmosphere, and a relaxing way to end the day.
Tower of London
I’m such a history nerd, so visiting the Tower of London felt like an immense privilege. I had no idea how extensive the place was, and was surprised to learn that exploring it can take a day – sometimes two! In particular, I was on the hunt for Tudor era history. Particularly, I wanted to walk anywhere that Anne Boleyn once did. For more on that, read this post!
Dishroom – Canarby
London is well known for having some of the best Indian food outside of India. One of the most famed includes Dishroom. We visited the one in Canarby, and it was outstanding. The waitstaff is top notch, and the interior is beautiful. The motto of the restaurant is “From Bombay with Love.” Having been to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) the aesthetics are remarkably similar to some of the top rated restaurants I have eaten in. Dim lights, different shades of browns, and sleek decor. Each of us picked a few dishes to share, and engaged in heated political discussion (naturally) as we scoffed the food down. Dishroom offers some classics such as biryani and grilled dishes with ingenius twists. Enter, paneer pineapple tikka!
A limited number of dinner options following an evening theater performance left us visitng this Korean hot spot in Soho for dinner. Off the bat, the ambiance is sexy and chic which made me feel like
I belonged a blob fish pulled from the depths of the ocean and smooshed into a booth in the back of the place.
The drink options are a knockout. Jinjuu uses unique ingredients in their imbibements including red ginseng, peach soju, aloe vera foam, kumquat, and more. Five stars for the ingenuity of whoever created these drink concepts because they are off the charts!
Now, for food. Meep, is my honest opinion in one word. There is apparently no dinner, only “late night bites” and lunch. Reading the menu, the options seemed really promising. However, each dish that we ordered came with two measly little servings – even if we ordered two of each it was not enough food. To top it off, I didn’t think the food was all that good – and I really like Korean food.
The Climax. As good as it gets!
I remember watching the wedding of Princess Kate Middleton to Prince William. Her long walk down Westminster Abbey’s black and white tiled floor mesmerized me. I was utterly fascinated with the place and the spectacle around her wedding. I had barely left the country at that point in my life, and was so interested that the monarchy in the UK was still held in such regard. I never thought I would get to travel the world, let alone actually get to visit Westminster Abbey.
Sometimes dreams come true.
I never thought I would be astonished at a live performance anywhere in the world. I live in New York City. I see Broadway shows all of the time. I hold the caliber of that level of performance to most productions. I can’t help it, it comes with the territory of being a New Yorker. That being said, I missed my opportunity to see Les Miserables on Broadway in New York. However, I’ve seen many versions of it in film and I know all of the songs by heart. It is my favorite musical of all time. I was given the opportunity to see it in London’s theater district, and best of all, was seated in the second row. I had never sat so close to the stage in my life.
I could see the sweat pouring off of the actors faces. I could see their spit flying out of their mouths. It was the most surreal experience of my life. I felt as though my heart left my body and was on the stage, embedded into the action on stage. If you’re unaware, Les Miserables takes place during the French Revolution. I felt as though I were watching history come alive.
Not only is the plot exceptional, the music is superior. At the close of “One Day More” I couldn’t even stop myself. I didn’t just cry, I SOBBED uncontrollably. I’m crying as I write this now. It is nothing short of magic that some people are so gifted as to bring performance to life. Imagine producing something so beautiful that it makes someone like me move to tears. It may have been the first time I cried during the play, it certainly was not the last. This was one of the greatest moments of my entire life. There is not a car ride that goes by (and I drive a lot) that I do not play at least one song from the soundtrack.
After the play, we got to meet the man who played the lead, Jean Val Jean. Nina and I were super shy about meeting him, but my husband led us by the hand like little baby school children. He signed our play books and chatted with us. Chatted! With us commoners! As if he wasn’t a God among mere mortals! He noted that he thought it was so cool that we were from New York City. His dream was to perform there. This man, who gave the performance of a lifetime, still thought he could dream bigger. Unreal.
I bought a “Les Miserables” shirt after the play. I wear it to work every time that I really don’t want to be there and feel quite “miserable.”
Walking home one night, we were approached by a man who emerged from an alley. He said to follow him, and so we did. I understand how painfully creepy that sounds, especially to my mother if she’s reading this. However, he led us to a hidden, deep, dark basement. I realize that this somehow sounds even worse. He led us to Cahoot – the most incredible underground bar ever.
Cahoot’s design takes you back to the 1940s which is their theme. The aesthetics and staff do an exceptional job at transporting the guests. Waiters wear traditional 40’s garb and are superior in their ability to pick the perfect cocktail if you have any trouble. You definitely will, because the options are all superior and the array is dizzying. Visiting Cahoot will have guests understanding the difference between a mixologist and a bartender. The folks behind the bar are scientists with magical hands, and the inventors behind the menu are genius.
Speaking of the menus, they are giant newspapers which give you the low down on each imbibement. Food is referred to as “rations” at Cahoot. As we sipped out drinks in the dimly lit happening place, I totally got the vibe that this was an underground tunnel meets speakeasy concept. Cahoot is flawless in the execution of their theme! It’s truly the only place that rivals the most incredible drinking hole I’ve visited – Stagger Lee in Berlin.
This is undoubtedly the most iconic London photo spot. Seeing it on television always makes my heart beat fast with joy, I have no idea why, it just does. Seeing it in real life made my heart damn near jump out of my chest. It looks like a bridge straight out of a child’s playset comes to life. I loved walking over it several times and people watching, especially the three card monty folks trying to hustle people out of money. I loved standing smack in the middle and enjoying the view and sunshine. Absolutely brilliant.
Pubs, Fish, and Chips
I hold this experience with just as much esteem as all of the top sights of London! My favorite type of place to drink are old man bars. While the ambiance of London pubs vary greatly, plenty had what I was looking for indeed. A roaring fireplace, one old man reading a newspaper, dim lights, and great beer. The pub food everywhere was EXCELLENT including the Sunday roast and savory pies. Fish and chips met every expectation and the mushy peas were a beautiful accompaniment.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
If you’re looking for the sexiest spot for a date, look no further. The wine bar is one of the oldest and has been frequented by many a London talent over the years. It’s set in an underground cave and is lit by candlelight. It’s incredibly cozy and romantic. They offer the perfect small plate accompaniments (think cheese, olives, meat, etc) and of course exceptional wine! If you happen to be here with a friend, like I was, it’s a great hidden place to talk shit about people.
Having afternoon tea while in London was a MUST for me. As an Alice in Wonderland aficionado, I was delighted to see that the Sanderson hotel offered a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea party! Every treat and beverage was themed, The hotel really outdid themselves. Click here to read my post about the experience!
Performance at the Globe Theater
An experience I have longed to have since I was 15 years old. I attended a performance of The Winter’s Tale at the Globe Theater one evening. I laughed! I teared up! I was enthralled with every moment! One of the finer moments was looking around the theater and being able to determine which guests, like me, had been waiting years upon years to be there at the Globe. Read more about the experience here.
Pillow Talk. The end of my first time.
I don’t care if it’s touristy, I loved it! I don’t know why I felt very nervous when buying our tickets. I thought fear from “scary experiences” left with my childhood, but apparently not. I felt my heart pound the minute we entered. The dungeon is HUGE, it’s very deceiving from the outside.
London Dungeon takes you on an interactive experience through London’s most haunted history. We walked through the beheading of Anne Boleyn, the plague, Jack the Ripper, the demon barber of Fleet Street and more. The theatrics were really top notch and the special effects were incredible.
At one point, the executioner who “took Anne Boleyn’s head” looked into the audience for a head big enough to take. Naturally, he put his pliers around my melon head and said, “oh yes – this is perfect – it’s big enough.” I know I have the biggest head in the universe, but DAMN bro.
The British Museum
There are certainly plenty of options to choose from in terms of getting a museum fix in London. I chose the British Museum for all of the pride that the UK holds for this museum. It contains thousands upon thousands of artifacts and works from nations and civilizations around the world and is among one of the largest collections on the planet.
Visiting the British Museum means having the opportunity to see curiosities from around the world that most people only hear about in school. The museum is extensive and truly dizzying, but I got to see some awesome exhibits including:
The Rosetta Stone!
The Seahorse Bar
We capped off our last night in London at the Seahorse Bar. The crowd seemed to be mostly corporate folks coming off of happy hour and into standard nighttime drinking. The place is fairly small and has an illuminated bar. Nearly everyone inside was absolutely wasted. How do I know? Almost all of them were falling over onto the floor at least once, slurring their speech, dancing furiously, and using each other as barricades to fall into. One woman was SO loaded that she pushed open the bathroom stall door as I was peeing and began rummaging for her wallet, seemingly unaware that I was on the toilet. I’ve heard many a tale about how drunk Londoners get, and I wasn’t disappointed here. It was a good time had by all.
While we didn’t actual tour Buckingham Palace, we stood outside at night and watched the guards march around. It was still fun to actually see the place and the scale of it! It was double fun to be the tacky American tourists yelling, “move faster!” at the guards.
Safe Words. (Phrases I Picked Up)
Thoughts on London as a Partner:
I’ve always wanted to visit London for a myriad of reasons. When I learned that I’d have the opportunity to go, and with such a great group – the high of the excitement carried me through most of the summer.
London is huge. I mean, London’s REALLY packing. I was super intimidated, and obviously didn’t know how to handle something so big.
I had so much on my list to see, and I only got to a fraction of it! The things that I did get the chance to see are what make me feel very lucky and privileged. To have seen Westminster Abbey? To have watched a performance at The Globe Theater? How could I not? This was one of my most memorable trips.
I planned so much for London, and I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t maximize my time there to the fullest extent. Many of my days were spent waking up late and leaving little time to see all the sites that I wanted. In a city like London, I’d cram three to four sights into a day. On this trip, I feel that I barely saw one, maybe I half saw two. I missed breakfast most days, and sadly never had an English breakfast. There actually wound up being a reason for the extreme fatigue which seemed to hang over me like a weight blanket for the week. Stay tuned to see the article giving the answer!
London is huge and expansive. With that being said, I’m really surprised and disappointed at the nightlife and culinary options. There were so many times that we had to choose from the one restaurant open because every place that we wanted to eat was shut down. It seemed to me that restaurants close SUPER early which was disappointing, and often left me feeling so angry and frustrated. Rather than experience London’s renaissance culinary scene, I was “settling” for meals that never seemed to ‘wow’ me.
I always thought London was similar to New York City. In my city, at least prior to having Henry, it was rare that you would go out for the night and make it home before sunrise! In London, I had to try SO hard to find places that were open late for drinks! I wasn’t upset so much as I was surprised. Where is all of the nightlife I’ve heard so much about!?
I simply need more time to explore this city. I can’t wait to go back for round two! I’ve only scratched the surface of what it has to offer!